I've recently been introduced to the concept of skinship. If you look it up you'll find a bunch of different definitions - mothers with babies, friends or work colleges bathing together, various types of touching, etc. - but the base tone is the same. Increasing the levels of intimacy by being around one another in a state of undress. This is a mindset I get, it's one I've subscribed to for a large portion of my life.
I remember when I was a kid, I used to sleep in pyjamas. I was expected to wear them. At some point around the age of eight or nine, I started stripping off my pjs once I was in bed. I remember what I think is the first time I did it. It felt like the most delicious freedom. I didn't feel like I was doing something forbidden or bad, just new. After that I'd hop into bed, take off my pjs, then put them on again in the morning when it was time to get up.
Now I wouldn't actually call myself a nudist as such. I'm not entirely sure why, as I have attitudes that I think would probably be attributable to the nudist mindset. In my normal day to day life, my preference would be towards being at least partially naked much of the time - I often like to wander about without trousers on, but like a shirt for the handy pockets - I find it comfortable. I like the sun on my skin, the air on my body, I like not feeling constrained.
I don't have a great body. I don't have an awful body. It's just a body. I don't have a particular desire to show it off because I don't see it as anything special, but I'm not worried about people seeing it either, unless it's something that they will find upsetting or offensive. Having had so many female friends, I don't fall into the mindset that so many men desperately fall into, that of 'if she sees my penis, she'll want to sleep with me.'
I've heard from and talked with women about their reactions to the 'surprise nude' guy. They usually range from amusement, eye-rolling, to feeling that the guy is a bit of a desperate and clueless loser - they rarely find it an immediate turn-on, and if they do it's usually because the guy already had their interest anyway. It can actually be a turn-off to someone who was interested. Since I don't tend to think anyone will be interested either way, I don't care if they see or not.
Oh, for the two women who have told me they actively like my naked body, I'm happy to show it off from time to time. It's really nice to be appreciated, to have a couple of people who say they like seeing me undressed, enjoy naked pics of me, like looking at my bum or willy, etc. but any other time I'm naked it's about freedom, silliness, or art.
I've also had some nice compliments on my body from a few folks in regards to a couple of the Lake Ballard shots, which was nice.
I like seeing people naked. Sure there are people I would prefer not to see naked, just as there are people I'd rather not see in certain outfits, and others I'd rather not see at all, but overall I like it. The enthusiasm I have for people extends to their bodies for a number a reasons.
With some, it's because they look nice, they just have forms that appeal to certain aesthetics that I like or admire. The human body is the most amazing collection of shapes, forms, skin textures and colours. I love seeing small marks, freckles, and scars, love watching the way light and shadow will play over a person's shape.
For others, it is because I don't half fancy them, and so it's nice to at least get to see what they look like. I rarely think of nudity as a prelude to seduction or a way to get things moving in a more sexual direction. I figure that ground work has been laid previously by other interactions if it's to happen - a look, a scent, the joy of each others company - is far more potent an aphrodisiac than a bit of skin, though that has its place too, of course.
But the thing I love most about seeing other folks naked is that it means that certain barriers have been dropped, there is a particular level of comfort, an openness. It may not always be immediate or completely relaxed, there may be worries about how one is perceived physically, or that maybe things will move in directions that are not wished for, but overall it often means that some limitations of interaction have been removed.
One of the truths I have found fairly consistantly over the years is that as the layers of clothing are discarded, so too are many inhibitions. People start to talk a lot more openly and freely about things. Their lives, their pains and shames, their hopes and desires. After late nights, and close physical contact, the next most common thing that leads people to talk about the hidden things is nudity. Alcohol does the job too, but it's an artificial relaxation, one that a person may be more likely to regret later.
It's as if, once the common barriers of clothing are removed, most of the others vanish too. Some folks develop an innocent playfulness, one that I often find very appealing. Others become more physical, and can show a cheeky or relaxed sensuality/sexuality, rather than a lustful one. Though strong desire too can be present, in varying amounts. It's amazing how many who have done the naked thing for the first time often express surprise at how relaxed they feel, lounging around nude and talking.
I take that feeling as a given.
I've gotten nude with plenty of friends over my life, though far fewer in the last seven or eight years, than in the time prior to that. It happened for various reasons and in various ways. I had one friend who I used to go away with for the occasional weekend. We enjoyed each other's company, but nothing sexual ever happened between us. We'd usually stay at hotels and on the first night it was a few drinks, and a game of strip poker, all by candlelight. It was the way she gained permission of herself to relax and really open up. We'd stay naked most of the weekend, cuddle in bed, massage each other, and talk, talk, talk.
I did body make-up on a regular basis with another friend of mine - we'd work on each other for hours. I loved doing body make-up, coming up with ideas and designs to try out. I lacked a decent camera back then, so very few of what we worked on has been recorded, and what was are all very grainy pictures.
And I've been to nude beaches more than a couple of times. I like the attitude there. Yep, people check each other out, but you will see all shapes, sizes and colours - it's the great equaliser. It's also handy for temporarily erasing the physically perfect stereotypes that we're bombarded with day after day by the media. You know that you're not perfect, but you get to see that neither is anyone else. I remember at Sunnyside, there was one particular guy who seemed to always be there. He was huge, easily 250kg, and none of it registered after the first glance. He was just another body enjoying the sun.
Naturally, I also like nude photography. The human body can be powerful, sensual, funny, beautiful, abstract, arousing, fragile... And as you shift it through environments and lighting and shapes, it's a great constently changing landscape to play with. I've had a few people (ok, all of them guys) complain that they would like to see someone naked in my photos other than myself. And I would love to be shooting someone else, male or female! It would make it so much easier! Do you know how hard it is to get the camera set-up, then run across a salt lake, pose next to the metal statue in just the right position, all in the ten seconds before the timer goes off? If it wasn't for imagination and my quite good proprioception, I'd be stuffed!
While even I can recognise that some of the pictures I took at Lake Ballard turned out well, I still tend to think that if I'd been working with someone with a nicer body, they would have turned out better, if for no other reason than I could have taken a bit more time to set up the shots. Of course I'd also need someone willing to wander a hot salt lake for five hours for my art.
I do actually have someone who lets me photograph them naked, and when I put up my wallpaper pics of nudes, you'll see a couple of those shots (she's already given her permission, naturally). I have a second friend who is considering modelling for me. Whether she will, time will tell.
I have a wishlist of guys and girls I'd love to photograph clothed, and a few I'd like to capture naked. For some it's because they have nice or interesting bodies. For others it's the way they move and carry themselves, their animation I wish to capture. For a few it's simply who they are, trying to show something I can see within them. And then there are those who so astound me with their looks, how could I not want to photograph and preserve what I see? Not all of them are slender either, some have a fair bit of weight on, but carry it beautifully.
In amongst all this I have to say, I'm not fond of the people who flaunt their nudity. There's a huge difference between the person who is naked because they are comfortable, and the person who is naked to show off or shock. I don't generally enjoy being around those that are trying so hard, I find it off-putting and tiresome. 'Yes, you're naked, and you're not content with just letting people's eyes drift in your direction as suits them, you actively want them to look.' Yuck. Now that may sound funny coming from me, whose bare arse you've seen many times on this very LJ, but it's an attitude thing. I get naked for fun, silliness, openness, art, joy, freedom - I don't generally get naked to provoke an offended or sexual reaction.
When Hespa and I did the Nullarbor trip, I danced naked on the Nullarbor because I was so very happy and relaxed, not in the hopes of getting a reaction from her. And I wouldn't have done it if it had been something she would be uncomfortable with. We took photos because I think a pale, pudgey guy dancing naked with a walking stick is deliciously silly - especially if he's in mid-air! Some of those shots became my "Woohoo" icon, which I rather like.
When I'm happy, relaxed and comfortable, I like being undressed. It's a pure expression of joy and delight. I finally realised this consciously on my birthday trip. I noticed it because it was lacking. I couldn't even sleep naked for most of the trip, because emotionally I was so uncomfortable and unhappy that I couldn't bear to be fully unclothed. Even now I'm back home, I'm still having that issue - there's still a lot of damage to repair. I'll get there, healing just takes time :)
On Facebook, Tiki showed she knows me probably the best of anyone, by voting that I was "Most Likely to dance naked in wild places with sheer uninhibited joy."
That is as accurate a summation of me as you'll ever find.
Comfort zones can be good things. They can be places of safety when the world is harsh and scary. They can be a mental place, an action, or physical place.
I assume that everyone has some sort of comfort zone. One of mine, that I've talked about on here a few times, is that when asked what I do for a living, I always start by saying, "I used to be a drover," which usually leads the conversation down that path for at least a few moments while I deal with my usual shyness and poor self image (this person doesn't really want to talk to you, etc.).
I have other comfort zones in various forms. A physical one is Eucla, and most recently the camping spot near Norseman, though it remains to be seen whether or not the latter is to be a constant or not. My car itself is also a comfort zone. While I enjoy masturbation as a recreational pass-time and sexual outlet, it can during times of high stress become a way to numb emotional pain with the distractions of pleasure. Reading doesn't work so well any more because of my inability to concentrate. Films and TV work but rarely in the normal way, because I find myself deconstructing what does and doesn't work about the production, the acting, the sets, and of course the script. My "I'll be right," attitude is in some ways a comfort zone, a mindset that allows me to deal, in the short term, with difficulties.
These various things work well for me. The thing to watch is when they work too well. They can also become prisons so very very easily. I've seen it happen with myself, and I watch it happen with other folks on a regular basis.
Using personal examples for the moment, the "I'll be right" attitude is one. It's a safe place, an easy place, because I do truly believe I'm going to be okay. As most of the regular readers know, life throws things at me and (recent times excepted) I often find the good or funny side of it. That's just me. But where the IBR mindset becomes a trap and a problem, rather than a safe place added to my usual good humour and positive outlook, is when it's working with my poor self image and me not wanting to be a nuisance. I will default to IBR, rather than ask for help when I need it, even from people I trust, who I know wish to help me in whatever way they are able.
And the big problem comes when, because I am so very comfy within that mindset, I don't realise how badly I need help at all.
The breakdown has done wonders for undoing that, and it's been a good thing. I'm still pretty positive and happy in many ways, but I am also an emotional wreck. And I've had to come to terms with the fact that this is, without doubt, the most damaged I have ever been. And it's definitely a good time to ask for help when I feel I need it. I still tend to hold off longer than I should, except with certain fairly specific folks, but I am at least asking now.
It pushes me well outside my comfort zones to do it. I still hate asking, feel awkward doing it, feel like a nuisance, but I push myself because it's what I really need to do. The alternative is to keep myself in a mental/emotional place that exhausts and upsets me. What possible good is that to anyone, especially me? Plus, my friends don't want me there any more than I want to be there. So I ask for places to stay, ask people to make decisions for me, to read menus to me, to hold me for a while. In almost every case I feel awkward as hell, but it's teaching me that I can ask for things, and that other people are as ready to do for me the sorts of things I'd happily do for them.
Comfort zones can work well as a prison because one becomes convinced that, no matter how uncomfortable and bad their situation, the alternative is worse or too hard. And so they don't do the things they really need to do, because their own misery has become the comfort zone, the easy thing to do.
God, how many times have I seen people in crap, soul-destroying jobs that they sat in year after year because it had become the easy option? They hate their job. They hate the workplace, most if not all of their workmates, hate the way they are treated, hate the way they are expected to do the job, hate the person the job has made them become, and hate that they can't get out of it. NO job is perfect, you'll have good and bad days and weeks. But if you wake up most mornings dreading going to work, that is bad. Really bad. Because you spend too much of your time at work and dealing with the side effects of being in your job, to detest it so utterly.
Yes, I get it, you have commitments. You have a mortgage, bills, etc. You're worried you may not find another job, or will have to take a pay cut. You may not be able to live the life you want if those things happen. That's great, so you're living the life you want now? Is a job that makes you hate getting up in the morning, that drains you and leaves you angry or depressed or hating yourself, is that part of how you want to live your life? Has the prison of misery become the easy option? Have you become so comfortable being in the life you hate, that any action to get out of it gets relegated to the too hard basket?
No job, no paycheck, no lifestyle, is worth your mental, emotional and physical well-being. If you were drowning in quicksand, and the only vine that could save your life appeared to be covered in vicious thorns, would you choose to keep sinking? That's what so many people do every day, keep sinking.
The thing is, sometimes after the initial shock of grabbing the thorns, you find they aren't as bad as they looked, and they are in fact, better than the alternative.
The trap of comfort zones work in other ways, too. Watching telly, reading a book, having a drink, surfing the net, go from being a way to unwind to a way to stay numb. And the numbness becomes more and more comfortable, easier to do. Is that show you obsess about so important to you because it speaks to you, raises your spirits? Or is it just a really good way to keep yourself cut off from the world.
Not all comfort zones rely on inaction. I know of people who have filled their lives with seemingly fabulous things. Awesome projects, a busy social life, travel - their every waking moment is chock full o' stuff that many of the folks sitting on the couch or at the computer envy. But for some of these folks, the trap has become a way to keep their lives so amazingly full of cool stuff, that they don't have to face their problems. And the most common problem I see with these folks is loneliness, even when their lives are filled with people.
I'm not saying that every person that has a busy, or quiet, life is hiding from reality. But there's a word I know of, it doesn't actually exist in the Bumper Danny Oz Dictionary, but I do know of it - it's called "moderation." If you find yourself living in the same way, day after day, week after week, is it because this lifestyle pleases you, or is it because that behaviour has become your way of hiding from the reality of your life? Of avoiding hard decisions, despair, change?
And let's face it, even if that lifestyle is pleasing, isn't it conceivable that there's more to enjoy if you just, once in a while, stretch in a few new directions?
It's interesting, since the stroke one of my safe places, Eucla, has become a way to force me into stretching my comfort zones. I still love my big trips and enjoy them, and I'm never going to stop, but for the moment each trip is really pushing what I'm comfortable doing. Why? Because physically it's so very, very hard. It exhausts me, drains me, and in the back of my mind is the constant niggle that if I get a migraine that won't go away, I have maybe 24 hours to get to hospital. Longer than that and there's the risk of more brain damage.
And if I get a migraine that's that bad, am I going to be physically able to get myself to a town that's big enough to have a hospital, or at least to some place where I can call in the flying doc? On the rare occasions when I wake with a headache, or the days where I know I'm not safe to travel, a little part of my mind goes, "Gee, this could be bad." And so I keep an eye on it, and stay aware of which big towns are the closest.
But I'm not going to stop with the trips, in fact if I can get to a point where I'm bringing in decent cash, I want to do more and longer trips, to more remote places. Because it's only by stretching the comfort zone, by pushing myself out of the comparative safety of the cities, that I can find the people, things and places that bring me so much joy. I can't have one without the other. Oh I could simply make sure someone travels with me every trip, and that's great, there are lots of people I'd love to do the trips with. But I'd rather travel alone, with all that that entails, than share the journey with someone who I don't think I'll get along with. The safety of having another driver isn't worth the price, not to me.
100 Days of Love and Hate stretches my comfort zones on a regular basis (well, when I get them out). I'm putting my opinions, thoughts, and personal life and history up there in open view to be mulled over and judged, sometimes by complete strangers. When someone off my friends list tells me that they read 100 Days, my first thought is, "Oh God! They know all about my cock! Argh! They know about my eating habits! Fuck! They know I constantly play with my todger!" And often while my mind is reeling and going through my personal list of embarrassment and shame, they're telling me they love it.
It's not easy to be this honest, but it is rewarding, and almost always a struggle.
What I will say in closing is this. The next time you're presented with something that challenges your comfort zones, whether it's something that's suggested to you, or a crazy thought you've just had, give it some proper consideration. Don't just kneejerk and say you can't. Don't just look at all the bad things that could come out of it. Don't just listen to your automatic fear, distrust, or worries.
Instead, look at what you might gain. Because even a small gain is worth some discomfort. And that's the price you have to pay. You can stay safe and numb, or you can live, and that requires risk and change.
If you look at your life, and there's something missing, then it's probably time to do something different with it.
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